Documents of conflict and suffering -Gilles Peress – Farewell to Bosnia

Gilles Peress was born December 29, 1946 in France and grew up in Paris with his mother, an orthodox Christian from the Middle East, and his father, who was of Jewish and Georgian descent. Starting out, it is possible that his background sparked his interest in photographing the consequences of conflict, political or otherwise, with one of his first projects being on Turkish immigrant workers in West Germany, and the documentation of the European policy to import cheap labour from the third world.

Further research revealed that it was his educational background in politics and philosophy that drove his initial motivation, both to take up photography and the subject matter he captured, not due to it inspiring him, but more to do with the gap between political words and political reality. Peress has also documented events in Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, the Balkans, Rwanda, the U.S., Afghanistan and Iraq. One of his projects, Hate Thy Brother, ‘looks at intolerance and the re-emergence of nationalism throughout the world and its consequences.’ Now a Magnum photographer I love the quote on his profile page:


I don’t care so much anymore about ‘good photography’; I am gathering evidence for history

In Farewell to Bosnia, a body of work that we are directed to in the course work, Peress is said to bear ‘testimony to the brutality and devastation of the 1990’s Balkan conflict.’

Here starts the curse of history, an illness that may not be so personal anymore. It may be a very European disease, after all, with a double-edged nature: you are damned if you remember – condemned to re-live, re-enact the images of your fathers; you are damned if you don’t – condemned to repeat their hypocrisy.

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